HOLLY RIDGE, N.C. (WNCT) Town Manager, Heather Reynolds has appointed retired Colonel Donnie Worrell of the Onslow County Sheriff’s Department as the Interim Chief of Police for the Town of Holly Ridge.
This comes after the recent demotion of Chief Keith Whaley to Major.
Retired Colonel Worrell will fill the position until further notice.
Officials said, “The Town of Holly Ridge is extremely appreciative to Colonel Worrell for stepping into the command position for the Holly Ridge Police Department.”
HOLLY RIDGE, N.C. (WNCT) – An Onslow County town is looking for someone new to lead a police department following a three-week-long investigation dismissing a former police chief of his duties.
Former Holly Ridge Police Chief Keith Whaley claims his demotion from police chief to major was related to his direction of Governor Cooper’s executive order.
In response to questions from 9OYS, Whaley says his reassignment was due to a reprimand for unsatisfactory duties.
Whaley has been with the department for 16 years and served as a police chief for three. He is disappointed in the outcome of the investigation.
“We, all the officers, have given our heart to the community and the police department and I thoroughly love the community and the support I’ve received from the citizens,” said Whaley.
Whaley was in agreement to close non-essential businesses in late-March due to the coronavirus pandemic but believes stores should’ve reopened after some time.
“Once things started opening back and people were out and about, ELBOW to ELBOW in Walmart & Lowe’s, then it is way past time to allow our small businesses to reopen. They (small businesses) were WELL prepared to follow CDC guidelines and they do not elbow to elbow. The small businesses were hurting and it’s not fair to keep them closed down!”, said Whaley.
Another high ranking officer, Captain Ewan Richards, is on investigative leave. According to the town manager, Richards’ case, as well as Whaley’s, are tied to personnel matters, and not a criminal one.
Both officers were found to be at the center of news a few weeks ago when a local gym reopened violating Governor Cooper’s coronavirus orders. The town did not respond to our questions whether either investigation was related to the event.
Whaley will be second in command at the Holly Ridge Police Department and work under the Chief of Police.
The town is currently seeking someone to be the new permanent chief. Reynolds said the town will search outside the department as an “effort to revamp our services to our citizens and business owners and take this opportunity to rebrand our department.”
Detective Lori Faircloth will serve as interim chief.
Whaley’s goal is to help mend the trust in the police department with the public, especially after recent current events.
“Not all officers are bad and we have some of the best officers around. They are extremely dedicated to the profession and to the citizens of Holly Ridge,” said Whaley.”
Editor’s note: The web article was updated to include the response from the town of Holly Ridge.